A-grade pair to trade Warwick blue for Allora green
RUGBY LEAGUE: After narrowly missing out on premiership glory with the Warwick Cowboys in 2016, two key players have left the club in a shock move.
Lock Jaime Abbas and second-rower Ty Gardner, both integral parts of the Cowboys A-grade side that got so close this year, signed with neighbouring rivals the Wattles Rugby League Football Club at a meeting on Wednesday night.
Gardner said he was looking forward to heading to Wattles.
"One of my best mates plays out there and it will be great to play a season with him,” he said.
"I've got a lot of family out that way too, so it made the decision a bit easier as well.
"It was a tough choice to leave the Cowboys and it took a while to make the decision.
"Jaime and I made the decision to go over together, we're great mates and where one goes the other goes as well.”
Abbas echoed his mate's sentiments, saying he had some great mates at Wattles and was looking forward to hitting the field with them.
"That's why we're doing it; we want to play with these guys before getting away from footy for a break,” he said.
"Cowboys are a great club and we had a really good year, but this is the decision I've made and I'm going with it.
"It's got nothing to do with money; I play for fun and because I love footy.”
Abbas said he was excited about the season ahead.
"Gary (Lawrence, Wattles A-grade coach) seems to have a good footy head on him and has lined up a few external coaches to come up and talk to the club, which is pretty exciting and hopefully I'll pick up some new skills and have a great season,” he said.
Lawrence said he was thrilled with the signing.
"It's a very exciting time for the club and for the boys,” he said.
"They both want to keep learning and keep playing good football and they'll bring youth, enthusiasm and grand final experience to our club.
"The boys both said if the decision was to do with money, they would have stayed at the Cowboys, for them it's about playing with some great mates, having some fun and furthering their football.”
Lawrence said he was looking forward to training.
"I can't wait to see what the year brings,” he said.
"We've got a training camp coming up in February, we've also got a Parramatta Eels wrestling coach to come up to work with the boys and three-time Olympian Debbie Wells is coming as well, to work with the club on running techniques.
"We've got a really talented young side and we want to give them every opportunity to do the best they possibly can.
"We're going to do a lot of video this year, analysing training and player performance to enhance our training.”
Also joining Wattles in 2017 is another former Cowboys player Michael Pearson, who returns to the Southern Downs after a season with the Highfields club in Toowoomba.
Warwick Cowboys president Dave O'Leary said the news of the players' departure from the club was disappointing to say the least.
"From the club's perspective, these guys will be missed, but we'll get a lot of younger guys who'll be very keen to take that step up to fill the gap,” he said.
"That's the nature of footy and we'll move on.
"Cowboys' training will recommence on January 10 for the 2017 season and we'll be hoping to go one better, keep the consistency from last year and keep winning games.”